Workplace Warning: Are you about to send an email that could ruin your career?

Published in Business, Home Page

Email is one of the most prolific forms of communication in the modern workplace. It is now almost impossible to imagine a time when businesses had to rely on the postal service, and workers now send billions of messages every day.  Although there are many benefits to communicating in this way, don’t assume that it’s a risk-free activity. The next time you decide to click the send button, stop and ask yourself whether your message could fall into one of these 5 career-threatening categories.

Commercially sensitive information

If you are working on an important project, you may need to share information that is sensitive or legally privileged. Many companies ask their employees to sign non-disclosure agreements, which dictate that you can only share relevant information with other people on the list. When you’re about to send an email containing important data related to the project, make sure that all the recipients have signed the same agreement. If you send the message to the wrong people, you could lose your job and face legal action and it could ruin your life.

Personal data

Many countries have strict laws about the control of personal data. This term applies to a lot of information, ranging from somebody’s date of birth to a credit card number. Try not to send external emails containing personal data, because a third-party can intercept the message. You also have less control over what happens to the message. For internal emails, or where you must send data externally, make sure the information is in a secure, encrypted file. You should also confirm that the person receiving the file has permission to view and use the data.

Making derogatory or negative comments

It is vital that you understand what it means when you send an email. Any email that you send from a corporate account becomes a formal document, which a court can later use as evidence. On this basis, if you act in a way that could cause your employer embarrassment, your boss is likely to take action against you. There’s a simple way to make sure that it is safe to send an email. Consider whether you would print the email out, place it in an envelope and post it to all the people you have mentioned. If the answer is no, don’t send it.

Obscene or offensive material

Most companies have a clear policy related to acceptable use of email at work. This type of policy is normally common sense, but it is surprising how many employees still get into trouble. Obscene language, pornographic images and jokes are all examples of content that employers will frown upon, but even light-hearted comments can cause offense. Use your personal email account to chat with friends, to avoid any risk that your boss will see something that could land you in hot water.


A bad day at the office should never result in an email-based tantrum. The way you feel after a particularly stressful meeting isn’t a good representation of how you want your employer to see you. If you commit your thoughts to email, the message will come back to haunt you. When you aren’t happy about something, talk it through professionally with your colleagues. Don’t send a rant via email, as many employers will consider this behavior inappropriate, and you could find yourself facing disciplinary action.

It is always important to think carefully before sending an email. In the middle of a busy day, it is very easy to act hastily and send a message that can later cause serious trouble. Try to restrict how often you use email, and both your effectiveness and your career prospects will improve.

Ray Mancini